5 SNP MSPs who could replace Nicola Sturgeon if Ruth Davidson triumphs

The next Scottish election is still four years away, but if the SNP are kicked out of power in 2021 they will need a fierce opposition leader to take them back to power?

1. John Swinney

One possible, but unlikely option is John Swinney, who is currently Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and its Education Secretary. Swinney is an experienced Cabinet Minister with a high level of name recognition, however, he has already served as the party’s leader.

His time at the helm of the SNP was during its opposition years, and the party lost seats at the 2003 election under his leadership. For a party wanting to claw its way back from opposition after a long spell in government, a previous failed leader might not be the best option.

2. Derek MacKay

The current Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution has been an MSP since 2011 and a government minister since later that year. He is widely seen as a rising star in the party, and used to lead the Renfrewshire Council in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

For a party looking for experience and a relatively fresh face, MacKay could be the answer.

3. Humza Yousaf

Yousaf is another SNP figure seen as a rising star in the party. He is a well-refined speaker with heaps of charisma and currently serves as the government’s Transport and the Islands Minister. In an opposition role, he could prove an effective challenger to a hypothetical First Minister Ruth Davidson.

4. Fiona Hyslop

Hyslop has been an MSP since the Scottish parliament’s inception in 1999, first as a regional MSP then as a constituency MSP. She has an abundance of government experience which could form the foundation of any future leadership campaign.

5. Michael Russell

Russell currently serves as Scotland’s “Brexit minister”, and was previously Alex Salmond’s Education Secretary. He has plenty of government experience which could help his chances in a hypothetical leadership contest, but his lack of newness could be a hindrance.


MSPs are elected via the proportional Additional Members System, and are currently allocated as follows:

  • SNP – 63
  • Conservatives – 31
  • Labour – 23
  • Greens 6
  • Liberal Democrats – 5
  • Presiding officer – 1 (formerly a Labour MSP)

1. SNP plurality (pro-independence majority)

It’s hard to imagine the SNP losing power at the next election. Under this scenario, the SNP would emerge as the largest party and the Greens would get enough seats to ensure SNP-rule continues and that the parliament keeps its pro-independence majority, which has been in place since 2011. Such a scenario would likely lead to a second independence referendum.

2. SNP plurality (pro-unionist majority)

Under this scenario, the SNP and the Greens combined would fail to win 65 seats. If they came close to that magic number then SNP-rule would likely continue, however, the smaller their combined total the more likely the chance of opposition parties challenging the SNP hegemony. Could an alternative government emerge?

3. Small Conservative plurality

After June’s election victories, the wind is certainly in Ruth Davidson’s sails. One possible option is that the Conservatives could emerge as the country’s largest party. This seems difficult to imagine, but a year and a half ago it seemed unlikely that the Tories would become Scotland’s second largest party – something they managed to achieve last May. The question then would be: what next? The SNP would not dare support a Conservative minority administration, and if Richard Leonard (the bookies' favourite) wins this month’s Scottish Labour leadership contest against Anas Sarwar, then that would all but guarantee no support from Scottish Labour. The party has been accused of siding with the Conservatives before, a criticism that saw them lose all but one seat in the 2015 UK elections, so they will not be making that mistake again. Labour’s best option would be to support, or reluctantly prop up, an SNP administration and push it to the left on key issues.

4. Large Conservative plurality

Under this scenario, the Scottish Tories would make significant gains at the expense of the SNP. If the party won over 50 seats, then the Conservatives could convince the opposition parties to give them a chance in government. But even then, Labour would be reluctant to support to the Tories, and it would be out of the question for the SNP, who would no doubt try and form an opposition deal with Labour to stay in power. The only hope for the Conservatives would be from the Liberal Democrats, but after the UK-wide coalition that resulted in near annihilation for the party, would they be willing to help out the Conservatives?

5. Labour plurality

At this stage, it seems very unlikely, but Labour could emerge as the largest Scottish party in 2021. Their seven wins in June has given them a much-needed confidence boost, and likely new leader Richard Leonard could be the inspirational leader the party needs. The clear split between the SNP and the Tories on the union and most policy issues plays to Labour’s advantage. The chance for a change in rule in Scotland would tempt the Tories to not to vote against Richard Leonard for first minister. The SNP could put forward an alternative first minister candidate, but a newly emboldened Scottish Labour could win over support from the Greens to support a more radical government.

]]> http://www.hitc.com/en-gb/2017/11/02/sturgeon-versus-davidson-5-outcomes-for-the-2021-scottish-electi/ Sun, 05 Nov 2017 08:45:00 +0000 Nicola Sturgeon
would almost certainly remain leader, Scotland could opt for change. After years of one-party-rule, slipping education figures, increasing centralisation, and a shift to the left by the SNP, Labour and the Scottish Greens, Scotland’s Tories will have their best shot to return to dominating Scotland since the 1950s.

If Ruth Davidson succeeds, the SNP will need a charismatic visionary to return them to power. The question is: can anyone fill Nicola Sturgeon’s shoes?

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